Thursday, January 27, 2011

Unlikely news this year

India is full of news stories, Indians consume news. Ours is such a vast and treacherous nation that stories happen on every road, footpath or corridor. Not all become national news. The more things change, the more they look the same. As a flight of my imaginations I thought of things that are most unlikely to occur.

  1. Mobile phone tariffs increase
  2. Petrol prices hit below 50 rupees
  3. Mumbai metro getting ready on time
  4. Rahul Gandhi becomes a Cabinet minister
  5. Economy growth rates dips below 8 %
  6. Salman Khan is out of news
  7. Sharad Pawar resigning voluntarily
  8. Delhi roads become safer at night
  9. CPI (M) winning in West Bengal and Kerala assembly elections
  10. An indigenous animation film be the biggest hit in India
  11. MTV decides to air Roadies-8 only twice a day
  12. CAT coaching classes reduce fees
  13. Another IIM alumni writes a best-seller
  14. Mass deleting of accounts and exodus of people from Facebook
  15. Gold prices dip below 20,000/10 gram
  16. Knight Riders winning the IPL
  17. Final decision on Telangana issue
  18. Kumar Sanu or Udit Narayan sing a chartbuster
  19. New 100 currency notes with J. Nehru on the obverse side
  20. Getting a correct monsoon prediction from MET department
  21. 5 new nuclear reactors sanctioned with 2000 MW capacity each
  22. Chicken tikka masala becomes the official national curry of India
  23. Coca-Cola or Pepsi making a comeback with increased sales
  24. One new cult fiction TV series that becomes an instant hit
  25. Nestle gives Kit-Kat free with a maggi double pack or 4 pack
  26. India to have 2 time zones – Mumbai and Kolkata to save daylight
  27. Government lets Tata enter aviation sector by buying Air India back
  28. Plastics bags are banned throughout the country and milk is sold in bottles
  29. Anil Kapoor shutting the hell up before the release of Mission Impossible:IV
  30. Media remains calm irrespective of whether India wins the world cup or crash out in quarter or semis

Feel free to add more in the comments section!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


There’s apparently a new sunsign on the horizon. Ophiuchus (pronounced off-ee-yoo-cuss) would manage to create quite a ripple if included in modern astrology as the 13 th sign. It would change birth signs of millions. You may change from Virgo to Leo; become a Piscean from an Aquarian. You might be capricious instead of hard-working, or fishy instead of scorpionesque, water instead of earth.

Ophiuchus...seems something far far and beyond, which it is too. The constellation lies between Aquila, Serpens and Hercules, northwest of the center of the Milky Way. The southern part lies between Scorpius to the west and Sagittarius to the east. So the constellation in itself always been there,maybe the Greeks just left it out because 12 was a perfect number to keep track of the days in the years and 13 is ‘unlucky’. Those who follow astrology will testify that the 12 signs framework has worked just fine.

Except being viral in nature for internet for a while, it shouldn’t pick up. People are very finicky about their signs and birthdays. Their birth date is of special value to them. Shifting to another celestial constellation is also something that most would not like. Scorpios have been the most short changed sign in all this brouhaha - just six days in a whole year? That makes it the most exclusive sign!

Your personality is part genetics, part sunsign and part acquired learned behaviour, so a new internet fad shouldn’t change much. The indicator that Ophiuchus wasn’t on any modern astrology calendar is that you will get very old ,older than Gutenberg print pictures of the Ophiuchus sunsign on web as of today.

Think,what happens to our coffee mugs, our sunsign key chains. What about the tattoos on the nape of our necks or small of the back. What about carefully selected and compatible sunsign partners? What about your gift cards and countless other things that people have with associated with their sunsigns?

The 12 signs sit so neatly in 2 columns in horoscope sections of magazines and newspapers. Just let it be.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Democratic and fair Indian film awards

On Friday, CNN–IBN had conducted a live chat with their Entertainment editor Rajeev Masand where the topic of discussion was need for fair and democratic Bollywood awards.Yours truly was also a part of the chat.During the one hour chat Masand was queried by cinéastes about the problem and his thoughts on it . Some have also begun a initiative of Twi-fi awards based out of Twitter dismayed by the hopeless proceedings.

There are a lot of things going wrong right now. Filmmakers whose film are in contention are part of the jury, people with no credibility are the judges, sponsors and channels appease stars by creating award categories for all and sundry.

One chatter even suggested sarcastically that why not we have categories like ‘Best actor having weight above 80 kilos’ or ‘Best actress with first name starting from A’ ?

Filmfare, the oldest and seemingly the most prestigious of all awards holds no credibility. There are a host of supporting reasons for this. Among other things, primarily, how can Filmfare be credible if they hold it YashRaj studios? We don’t have indoor studios in India?

What is the deal with best couple and power awards? The number of awards being handed out is insane and is unashamedly sycophancy. The glory and the importance of an award is lost, if everyone goes home with one.

I agree to an extent that equal weightage should be given to public opinion and critics' opinion. But sometimes the public doesn’t know how good a film is until actually told by someone of its ingenuity. I didn’t appreciate Citizen Kane before I came to realise the multiple layers in that film. I didn’t fully appreciate Jean-Luc-Godard’s Breathless in one viewing either. It’s the job of a learned critic to give critical insights so that the audience knows and appreciates better. Ultimately opinions are subjective, but an opinion has to given its voice too.

Look at the nominations in Filmfare for Best Director.

The question to be considered should be what new has the director offered directorially? A new cinematic vision maybe? That way, ideally Dibakar Banerjee for LSD, Vikramaditya Motwane for Udaan and Habib Faisal for Do Dooni Chaar should be the strongest contenders. Sadly,only Motwane had been nominated.

That is a problem; the award is given to director and not direction. Some directors like Sanjay Bhansali are considered auteurs even after they make bad films and term it as a secret remake. What the heck is a secret remake? Take a Spanish film, and set it up in Indulgent Street, Over-rated Corner, Bhansali Land?

His nomination has discouraged some new director who had made a better film .

Masand answering to a question said ‘I am just saying - are Salman, Shahrukh, Hrithik, Ajay Devgan, Ranbir the only best performances in the year? Why hasn't anyone nominated Rajat Barmecha and Ronit Roy for Udaan, or Arshad Warsi for Ishqiya, or Manu Rishi for Phas Gaye Re Obama, or Rishi Kapoor for Do Dooni Chaar? Why the shameless pandering to stars?’

And why Neetu Kapoor is not nominated for best actor female for Do Dooni Chaar is beyond me. Why, because she has crossed 50? Why is Neha Chauhan, who played the night-shift girl at the supermarket in LSD is not nominated ?

India has a host of award shows, but each has their own pressures and compulsions. We need an award that isn’t determined by a star's presence or by sponsor's demands. India needs a credible film academy awards and Bollywood needs website like, where reviews are from authors that are certified members of various writing guilds or film critic associations. No 3-4-5 stars for films, let the review on the film be aggregated and made a percentage of, like rotten tomatoes. It gives better range and idea of how good or bad the film is.

This will take a couple of years to digest for a star crazy fan base, but the art of cinema needs to be respected with credible people voting. Sorry to say but the industry doesn’t have many. Winning an BAFTA/Academy Award means something, even being nominated should be a challenge and an honour. The new Film Academy awards should

  • Respect performance not name
  • Don’t stretch the list be, fearless.
  • Reduce the number of nominees, five at maximum.
  • If there are only 3 performances worth mentioning, then there should be only 3 nominees.
  • Reduce all these ridiculous categories like best villain, comedian etc.
  • No shared awards.Someone will lose that doesn’t make the film/person that lost any poorer
  • Lifetime achievement awards should not be restricted to actors. Why not give them to film-makers, technicians, music composers, etc?
  • Two categories for music – best original song, best original album
  • Two categories for story – original, adapted (from literature, not Hollywood)
  • Best short film, best documentary
  • Like OSCAR/BAFTA keep sponsor's away and let awards be fair and neutral and hence it will become reputed

I am optimistic, that if enough people get together, there maybe a visible change and a free democratic award set by a Film Academy would take place. January 29 Filmfare awards would suggest otherwise though.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

127 hours

If anybody pitches you an idea about a film in which the main guy is trapped under a rock in a desolate Utah canyon, and amputates his own arm to get himself freed, what would you say ?Some of the obvious questions would be

Isn’t this documentary material?

Where is the action in the action movie if the guy can’t move?

How are you going to shoot once he is trapped?

The camera would be still after that?

Where is the suspense if the end is known?

Danny Boyle’s follow up to his academy award winning film is something that many would be sceptical about. He could have used this chance to make any film he wanted .Yet he chose to tell mountain climber Aron Ralston’s gut – wrenching story.

127 Hours escapes claustrophobic tendencies as Boyle uses, flashbacks, reveries, hallucinations and premonitions to bring motion in 'an action movie with a guy who can't move'. He brings latitude to a subject very restricted in breadth and shoots without being sentimental about the situation.

And that is why,in one line as famed film critic Roger Ebert put it, '127 Hours is an exercise in conquering the unfilmable.'

Many of us would have thought and done the same thing, but then failed half way only to be discovered dead a week later and becoming a part of a small story on a local news channel. Aron infact did manage to cut his arm off and, lived to tell the tale and deserves to be immortalised on screen. James Franco has not missed one beat in playing Aron Ralston right down to saying ‘oops’. Notice his quivering voice when he says the rock has been waiting for him for years ever since it came down on earth probably as a meteorite or when he interviews himself as he records on the handycam.

He is reckless, arrogantly self confident and charming but in the end realises that although given his steely resolve, we all need a little help ,human touch and interaction.

Sometimes you make a mistake and are allowed to dwell about it for a long time, in solace and then things become clearer, choices begin to present themselves. Something similar happens here to Aron. Surviving the elements of nature for over 5 days he finally cuts himself off the rock, climbs the cliff wall and hikes over 8 miles until he is finally rescued. That whole sequence is elevated by the simply brilliant ‘Festival’ track by AR Rahman. When it gets over you will be happy walking out of the theatre, both arms still present but never sad that Aron Ralston has only one.

Boyle’s films are always stylish, whether style follows function or the function dictates style is open to discussion. Every Danny Boyle film has entertained at some level from Trainspotting to 28 Days Later to Sunshine to The Beach.

I am a fan of Boyle’s extreme aerial zoom-out of camera, which he uses often to showcase the immensity of the situation. It can be the wilderness of Canyons in 127 hours, the expanse and kitsch of the slums in Slumdog Millionaire or the beauty of the forbidden beach in The Beach .Cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle and Enrique Chediak, establish the vastness of the Blue John canyon, Utah and the very specific details of Ralston’s crevice trap, like a sip of water,or his gradual exhaustion and dehyrdation. The filming is energetic and kinetic.

After its film festival premieres, it has got the Oscar buzz, but I am not quite sure it would win more than 1, if any .However 127 hours is among Boyle’s best films yet. Must watch!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Decade dilemma

It usually takes the first couple of weeks into the New year for us to ease into it.Many of us keep writing the previous year in place of the new one on cheques and letters.

This year kicks off a new decade and with it brings an interesting task of naming the decade,quite similar to the conundrum in the year 2001. We had become quite accustomed to decades being seventies, eighties and nineties and so the first decade of the 21st century had people scurrying for a term for the decade.

Several terms were discussed, but the now noughties is the acceptable term, which also had its share of protests because it sounded more like naughty and is a more British term than being international.

That issue was sorted as late as 2007,as the print and electronic media pushed noughties/oughties a lot.However,we have to name this one.There are competitions being held to unearth a new,suitable,trendy,catchy easy to say term for this particular decade.So what do you call this decade?

But as a student fed up with organic chemistry would argue, why bother with nomenclature?Similarly why is so important to name this decade?

Well,just for convenience, and secondly because of it peculiar characteristics ,it would be fun and challenging. Traditionally, it is the hippier trendier word that takes precedence. For instance we say twenty ten not two thousand and ten for 2010.

Some have suggested teenies, but the teen years don’t start until 2013,so 2011 and 2012 are unaccounted for. Deccies..sounds okay without having any particular logic behind it.

Thinking a little out of box, how about D0,D1,D2....

Dzeros, D-ones .It is alpha numeric like most of our passwords.But then again,it doesn’t fit into the ‘ties’ criterion, although it does have a nice ring to it and is two syllable. If we consider roman numerals and then consider, it can be decade X or even decXies.

Tennies sound more like tennis. People in the 1920’s used to say ‘back in the tens’,so just tens can also be an option. Twenty-tens is longer,so is twenty-twenties,and could just catch on in a few years.In Australia, the suggestion ‘one-ders’ won a competition!

I think this decade will remain an exception of how it would be called.It may be refered as something not remotely to do with numbers at all.Why not stickies? Because there is a one (stick)in every year.

Don’t laugh,no idea is a bad one while brainstorming.

I don’t know yet ..maybe we can name it after an event,however the 1910’s is not called World War decade either.But we can’t peep into the future and know what would happen. However we have a decade to come up with something, so don’t worry about it too much, but do think about it at least once.

Welcome to the new decade!